The new demo came out for Octopath Traveler today so naturally, being a huge Square Enix fan, I downloaded it because I’m honestly giddy at the thought of buying this game. The new demo allows the player to play for 3 hours, and can be loaded once you buy and play the game again, so there’s no time lost! Octopath Traveler, for those of you who don’t know; is a turn-based RPG that has very beautiful 2.5D pixelated graphics. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically 3D pixilation. The game features 8 characters, all of different backgrounds, locations and social standing. The player gets to choose which of the 8 characters they start with, and then they will meet the other 7 during their journey. Each character uses different weapons, has different stats and most importantly, “path actions”. Path actions are the special action that each character can do outside of battle. For example, Therion’s path action is that he can steal from certain NPC’s but if he gets caught, he won’t get the item and his reputation around town will diminish, meaning items cost more to buy and sleeping at the inn with cost you a pretty penny. It adds many layers of depth to this already fantastic RPG. Let us go through this splendid 3 hour journey together.
For the start of my journey, I picked Alfyn, the apothecary with a heart of gold. His journey takes him around the world, trying to help the sick and injured due certain events from his past. I felt like he was a great introduction character (for new players, I’ve already played the other demo) due to his simple story. But from there, things brewed into a storm of emotion and amazement.
Where To Start?
I’m at a crossroads when thinking about where I should start because there are so many wonderful things about this game. The first thing most people probably notice about the game are the graphics. They are truly something special, every little detail pops out at you, especially for a pixelated game. It started with Alfyn in a house, caring for an old man and I just got hit with feelings of wonderment . The lighting was dimmed since I was in a house, a few candles lighting the room but I could still see the trees outside, dimly lit. It’s so incredibly hard to describe but it felt like I was in some kind of magical forest, where the light shined through the trees but only onto me. Then the characters start talking and I’m reminded once again just how good the voice acting is in this game. Everything the characters say sounds so genuine and unscripted. It’s like a real life conversation and it took me out of the immersion for a second because I’ve never heard a pixelated game sound so good and natural.
Once you get out into the world, you really see how carefully everything was crafted. Every house is different, with grass growing out of a different part of every building. No village, forest or tavern looks the same. It’s like every blade of grass was made with passion. When you go into a different area, a new kind of music starts playing to put you in the mood and it’s just so immersing. I entered a cave and the music changes seamlessly into this theme at set the mood of being in a wet and dark place. Then I noticed the glow of the lamp I’m holding to light my way and once again I marvelled at how good the lighting is in this game. Every area, town, desert and forest feels truly unique in this game. Whether it’s because of lighting, music or just the way it looks, it really shows you that there are passionate developers out there trying their damned best.
That Beautiful Orchestra
Now let’s talk about perhaps the best part, the music. Oh, the music. It’s honestly what immersed me the most.No matter where I was, the music matched the setting and pace of the game so beautifully. The same goes for character interactions; if someone was speaking passionately, then the tone of the music dipped into a deep, moving, violin solo. If they spoke of going off on an adventure then the theme broke into an orchestra that swept me away to distant lands. I think something truly ascends to art when it is hard to put something like the passion I feel for this game, into words. How do you describe a feeling in your heart that you have never felt before? That feels so innocent and familiar, but brand new at the same time? Like a childhood memory that you had forgotten but suddenly remember again. That’s the best way I can describe this game’s soundtrack. It made me forget about where I was and outside troubles, and fully put me into this game. The battle theme for this game actually gets me in the mood and pumps me up, which not many games do this day (goddammit Persona 5, get a different battle song!). I loved all the themes and soundtrack so much that I’m listening to it as I write and I’m counting down the days until I get the special edition of this game.
Like I said earlier, I started out as Alfyn during this playthrough, whose story is a bit basic but grew on me like vines on an old mansion. It was simple, he just wanted to leave his village to pursue a pilgrimage of helping others. He has some emotional encounters with some of the villagers that I won’t speak of due to spoilers but it was a pretty basic adventure story. Then about an hour in, I met my second character, Therion, and things got a lot better. Therion is a master-class thief who is a bit cocky, but has the experience to back it up. I chose to meet him first because I felt like he would be a good mirror to Alfyn’s kind heart and selflessness. Sadly, when you get to play as both, they don’t really interact much, which was a bummer but I figured that would come later on once they all met.
A Nimble Thief
Therion’s story was a lot better and heavy then Alfyn’s which gave me a lot of hope for the rest of the characters. Essentially he hears a rumour that there is a big score that no other thief can obtain in the big mansion that is owned by quite the rich family. Once he finds what is inside, he is set on the path towards destiny (in my tale, with Alfyn by his side). I can’t really talk about it more without giving away story but it felt like Therion had a lot of purpose and drive than Alfyn which was great. Through the 3 hours I played of these 2 characters stories, I did get a bit of backstory that shed some light on character motivations so that was nice. And I can honestly say that a few times while I was playing as these characters, I felt genuine emotions which were due to good storytelling, theme, and overall characterization/voice acting. I can’t wait to experience all 8 stories when the game comes out, and hopefully shed a few tears from the inevitable heartache this game will cause me.
As this is a JRPG, there is obviously combat in this game and I can tell you that it’s one of the best turn-based combat systems I’ve seen in years. And trust me, I’ve played a lot of turn based RPG’s. So what does this game do so differently? First of all, it makes the combat flashy and actually look and sound good. From sword slashes to monsters tackling you, the sound effects are so realistic and you can almost feel the pain of each character as they get hit. The actual battlefield is quite plain but that is to contrast the flashy combat. And when I say flashing, I mean literally. Whenever I used my ice or fire spell, my dull screen lit up with flashes of dark blue and red and is a real spectacle to see. The trick to combat is to find your enemies’ weakness, albeit it a weapon type or certain spell, thus stunning them and making them lose a turn as well as lowering their defence a bit.
Stronger enemies take more hits from their weakness to stun them but that just adds more layers of strategy. Every round, your characters also get a boost point, which they can spend to do boost attacks, which can multiple up to four times. They’re basically strong attacks that mean you can strike 2,3, or even 4 times in one turn. It really helps deal a lot of damage and break stronger enemies’ defence faster. This makes traditional turn based combat a lot more fun because you’re actively looking for enemies’ weaknesses, waiting for your boost points to come, while also doing other typical RPG stuff like managing your party with defending, healing, buffing and other things. Your party gains more EXP from breaking opponents’ defence and even more if they don’t get hurt during combat. You also gain skill points and when you get enough of these points you can… well you can spend them on a new skill of course. Your first skill takes 100 points, but the third one takes 500, which really paces out skill progression but not to the point where you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. I also levelled up at a rewarding pace and when I did, my stats went up by a noticeable amount.
Let Them Grow
One of my criticisms with RPGs is that some games don’t make it obvious that you characters are actually improving. Most of the time you don’t even notice until late game but with Octopath Traveler, I noticed that my attack and health went up by a significant amount each time. By the time one of my characters was level 10, it felt like a huge improvement. The game still has random encounters like many other old JRPGs which is a bummer since a lot of newer instalments in long running JRPG franchises are dropping it. But I feel like the environments and setting of the game would get bogged down if there was monsters roaming around everywhere. It’s a two sided coin, ladies and gentlemen. The turn based combat genre has been reinventing itself in the past few years since many gamers have been criticizing it and calling it “old-school” and “boring” but games like Persona 5, and Octopath Traveler are finding ways to put a new spin on it and actually makes it engaging and fun. I really do think this game is one of the next steps in turn based RPGs.
I spoke a bit about them before, but path actions are another interesting mechanic in this game. It adds many more layers of depth to an already deep game. Alfyn’s “path action” was that he can inquire information from any of the NPC’s, meaning he can gain hidden knowledge from them by talking to them. This can reveal secret items, hidden backstories or can unlock new side-quests. I talked to every NPC I could and getting to know them and their backstory really made this world feel fleshed out. Everyone had an interesting past or they had a meaningful place among their peers. Some of the characters’ secrets were teasing more quests later on in my journey. It fit Alfyn’s personality considering how thoughtful and friendly he is. Therion’s was a bit different. Since he is a thief, naturally his path action is steal. You can pickpocket items from characters, like weapons, potions or certain story items. Certain characters have a lower percentage of it actually working, and if you fail, it can really cost you as I’ve mentioned before. Stealing from characters helped me because I didn’t have to spend money on things such as new weapons or potions. Thus I could put my money to more expensive items or armour. From the two characters I played as, the path actions were incredibly different and make each character feel even more unique. I’m sure each characters’ action will have to be used multiple times throughout the many hours I will play of this game and I hope there are some interesting puzzles.
Creating A Fantastic Relationship
Since this is the second demo to be released for Octopath Traveler, there were some quality of life changes. At the end of the first demo, the developers asked fans to comment and critique the game so that they may improve it and they have done just so. I absolutely wish more developers would do this, since it creates a good relationship between devs and fans, lets people try out the game and possibly fall in love with it and buy it if they wouldn’t otherwise, and if obviously allows for immediate fan feedback before the game comes out. The team working on Octopath Traveler released a trailer a few months ago, detailing every change they have made and have stated that they listened to the feedback and worked to improve the game, and even the graphics as much as they can (the graphics were already amazing as is). They have added things like being able to run faster, having a mini-map to show you where objectives are, and my personal favorite, being able to skip cutscenes. It’s these small, quality of life changes that will make Octopath Traveler a real masterpiece. Obviously, a good game starts with passion and love put into it by people who love and appreciate what they are doing, and the fact that they made these changes and listen to fans so well is proof of that. These are the developers and studios that create life-long fans like myself.
An Absolute Masterpiece
I usually try to sum everything up during the last part of my articles as well as recap what I said, but this time, it’s difficult to find the words that match the feeling in my heart? How do you describe true feelings of love and appreciation? The only way to possibly comprehend it is to feel it for yourself. But even if you try and talk about it, or describe it to someone who has also had the same feelings, it’s just too difficult. As I’ve said, this game transcends the shackles of just being a game or an RPG. I believe that everyone has their own definition of art, and to me, all video games are art. But Octopath Traveler feels like a painting that you would go to the art gallery all day just to sit and stare at. It’s the song you listen to when you have an off day and don’t know how to feel. It’s the movie you watch to cheer yourself up because you know every line and every 10 minutes you keep saying “this is the best part”. It’s that book on your shelf that you know you’ll pick up again someday and be transported back to this world of beauty. If you couldn’t tell by my constant praise, I fully, wholeheartedly, recommend this game.
The graphics, gameplay, music and story all have this synergy that I haven’t felt while playing a game in years. This will be the game I think about while I’m having a slow day at work and I day-dream to try and make it go by faster. This will be a contender for a spot in my top 10 favourite games of all time and possibly even compete for number 1. I can’t even say I’m excited for Octopath Traveler because saying that I’m just “excited” is such a disservice to how hyped and how much anticipation I have for this game. I know a lot of peple feel the same way, but i hope this game sells well so that Square Enix remakes some or all of the first 6 Final Fantasy games using Octopath Traveler’s engine/graphics. I hope this game never ends because I know I’ll never want the story; the good times, to end. Good stories truly live on in our hearts, but I fear my heart will not be able to contain my love for this story once it’s last scene fades to black.